Training While You’re Sick

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With Coach Ray

Training While You’re Sick: How To Make The Call

The chances are that there’s been some point in your exercise routine when you’ve gotten sick and asked the question, “Should I skip the gym today?”.

The question itself begs to be answered, “YES!” since you’re not neck deep in the toilet bowl professing your hatred for our cold and flu season. Being sick obviously sucks but we have to be smart and listen to our bodies when it comes to training while your body is trying to fight off an infection. Here’s a few things to consider the next time you find yourself asking that question.

ASK YOURSELF 2 QUESTIONS

1. Is my sickness above the neck? We are looking for symptoms such as:

  • colds,
  • coughs,
  • influenza,
  • sinusitis,
  • tonsillitis,
  • throat infections, and
  • middle ear infections

If so, and you don’t have a fever above 99.5F AND you’re absent of chronic diarrhea and vomiting (dehydration) then you should be fine. But always consult with your doctor before undertaking any advice from a blog!

Training with a fever will only contribute to raising your internal body temperature which may also lead to dehydration, especially if your vomiting or have chronic diarrhea. Periodic episodes of vomiting or diarrhea would be considered o.k as long as your intake of fluids is adequate and you’re consuming enough food to nourish the body AND the workout. And be sure the obvious doesn’t happen while on your third set of back squats!

2. Is my sickness below the neck? We are looking for symptoms such as:

  • chest congestion
  • Upper Respiratory Chest Infection
  • hacking cough
  • chronic vomiting/diarrhea
  • lethargy, and
  • widespread muscle aches

This list on only a guide and not all encompassing. You should be self-aware and use your best judgement. But if you said yes to any of the above then it’s best to sit this one out until you can un-check that box to move into the “above the neck” category.

THE STRATEGY

Alright, we’ve decided that ‘Netflix & chill’ can wait until after we’ve put some work in at the gym. Here’s what to do:

Step 1:

Commit to being active but accept that you may need longer to recover. In the moment you will want to keep the routine the same or even do 3 days in a row because thats what you would normally do. Don’t forget that by working out you are trying to help the immune system in expelling the kinky Rhinos from the bar, not assist them…nevermind.

Step 2:

Adjust your anaerobic (weight trainging) intensity and volume. Chasing 1 rep maxes aren’t your jam this week.

Stick to sets of 2×5 reps or 3×3 reps instead of 3×5 reps or higher. And try to work in the ranges of 65-70% of 1RM. Be sure to take adequate rest between sets in the 2-3 minute range to keep the heart rate down and recover properly. Adjust the rest and load to give you the result of accomplishment and efficiency and not one of struggle and fatigue. More about this later.

Step 3:

Adjust the cardio (aerobic)/WOD intensity. You don’t want to jack your heart rate to 90% levels in recovery doing HIIT movements such as skipping, air bike, row and sprinting coupled with weight training such as a CrossFit workout. The goal for intensity in your training window should also be around 70% of maximal effort. Remember, we are trying to recover and stimulate the immune system and not burden it!

Step 4:

Take into account these additional factors to optimize recovery, such as:

  • sleep quality
  • mental stress
  • emotional stress
  • nutrition

Avoiding or neglecting any one of these will inevitably sabotage your efforts to recover even when you’re not sick. So paying attention to them while training with a cold is of utmost importance! None of the above should be sacrificed for the sake of training!